Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist

Are “Virtual” Friends Worth Grieving?

Do you know your relatives?

I don’t mean the ones you’re in close contact with, like immediate family. I mean all of the people you know you’re related to, even the ones you only see at weddings and funerals: the ones whose opening line is always “you don’t remember me, do you?”

You probably do, even if you haven’t seen them face to face in decades.

Same with friends: some you see or talk to every day, others you only see every 10 years at class reunions.

My point is that you’ve seen them, met them face-to-face. That’s how you became friends in the first place.

But our lives are different now. We have “virtual” friends, people who may live on the other side of the world: people we “know” only because we text and tweet and chat and share and post and Skype.

So, what do you do when one of them dies?

In the past year I’ve met some of the people I’d only known online. Sometimes I was surprised (honestly, I thought he was taller). Sometimes they picked me out of a crowd. But in every case, the personality I grew to know online was the same as their real personality. I haven’t been disappointed, at least not yet.

Some of my online friends have now become “real” friends. What may have begun as a simple business-related connection has evolved into something much more personal. We share travel tips and restaurant recommendations, brag about our kids, offer support in our work and personal lives. As far as I’m concerned, the ability to meet people online you could have never met otherwise is a great gift.

Back to: what do you do when one of them dies?

It hasn’t come up for me, at least not yet. I have online friends who live all over the U.S., Canada, the U.K., France, Italy, and Australia. Many of them – most, probably – I’ve never met in person. We’re more like old fashioned pen pals.

I’m curious to hear about your online friendships. Have they evolved like some of mine? Do you consider them real friends, or do you relegate them to a lesser category? Would meeting them spoil things? Will you mourn them when they die?

On Friday, we’ll look at some responses, and consider the last question in particular.